After helping the men’s basketball team at Harvard University to secure its first ever victory during the March Madness NCAA Tournament, assistant coach Yanni Hufnagel developed a reputation as a top-notch college basketball scout and a determined recruiter. Now with an impossible to turn down new assistant coaching opportunity, he is on his way down south to be the new assistant coach for Vanderbilt University’s basketball team.
Saying goodbye to his former team at Harvard University was difficult for Yanni Hufnagel. The four years he invested working with the Harvard team paid off with their victory in March. When asked why he would choose to head down to coach at Vanderbilt University, Hufnagel cited a few player focused factors as well as personal reasons.
Several player focused factors include the SEC, scholarship opportunities for recruitment, success in sending team players onto the NBA, and academic support availability for the players. A few personal reasons, he added, include easy access to the city at Nashville, better weather, and being able to play every game on TV. These factors together influenced his decision to make his move down to Nashville, Tennessee.
As one of the top college basketball recruiters, Hufnagel was known for working with Jeremy Lin and Blake Griffin – both recent NBA stars – during their college careers. He stated that the top three things he will ask for in a potential recruit is 1) if they consider themselves a winner, 2) if they are coachable, and 3) if they are easy to get along with. He credits his ability to evaluate a potential recruit due to the really good coaches whom he had worked for. These coaches demonstrated to him that coaches and assistant coaches need to work together when considering a potential prospect and that two pairs of eyes are better than one for evaluation.
When asked if he believed in finding overlooked players and forming a winning team with them like in the baseball movie Moneyball, Hufnagel revealed that he considered basketball and baseball as two completely different sports and that although quantitative analysis is gaining ground in basketball, the odds aren’t likely that basketball players can make up for flawed team members as in baseball where the emphasis is a one on one, a batter versus a pitcher showdown.
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